The sex life of an infertile couple sometimes seems as if it's a matter of public interest. At least that was our experience.
Sonja and I had been married for five years and had no children, an immediate red flag to nosy people we met at church.
"Don't you know that children are a gift from God?" one man asked.
For those years Sonja and I had asked God every day to bless us with a child. We were aware of their value.
"You'd better get started!" some would say. This would launch us into a conversation about how we'd been "trying" and how we hadn't yet conceived. "At least you're having fun trying, right?" was a comment that usually came with a coy wink.
Wrong. We were not having fun "trying." When you're infertile, making love takes on the not-so-romantic air of an assembly line production, where the baby factory yields nothing month after month, year after year. Trying to get pregnant isn't fun when you're stringing together 72 months of forced sex and failed tries at conception.
Sadly, millions of couples suffer from infertility. According to a study by the Center for Disease Control, there were 2.1 million infertile married couples in the United States, and another 6.1 million women with "impaired ability to have children." Infertility is usually defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse.
Often, infertility deals a deathblow to a marriage, as a couple deals with years of disappointment and turns against each another. But it doesn't have to be that way. Through a recognition of God's sovereignty, an emphasis on prayer and making the marriage—not conception—the number one priority, infertility can draw a couple closer instead of destroying them.
Every infertile couple's experience is unique, but ours was unique even among people struggling with infertility—we had nothing wrong with us. For years, fertility specialists poked, prodded, and probed Sonja countless times. I'd been required to give a "sample" into a small cup.
Through it all, they found no reasons to explain our inability to conceive. We were young, Sonja ovulated normally and had no conditions that would preclude conception, and my sperm was grade A. Yet we were unable to do what all those people with "unwanted" pregnancies could do: conceive. With straight faces, medical experts diagnosed our condition: "Unexplained Infertility." Brilliant. Now I know why my faith isn't in science.
Ovulation graphs based on daily temperature readings littered our bedside table and served as evidence of our condition. For months, Sonja counted days, predicted cycles, and beckoned me to the bedroom when neither of us wanted to be there. Our sex life had morphed from spontaneous passion to hitting "windows in the ovulation cycle," or feeling the hopelessness of missing a chance to conceive.
Sonja and I could speak authoritatively about the biological nuances of making a baby, but could do nothing about it. Sometimes it seemed we were experts in failure.
It took only a few months before the conflict over forced lovemaking started to take its toll on our marriage. Our pattern of "trying" was similar to that of other couples trying to get pregnant. Sonja would chart her ovulation cycle, then command me to hop in the sack as often as possible during the 48 hours when her egg was supposedly making its way down her fallopian tubes. Repeated sex would have been my ultimate fantasy at 16, but I'd been enjoying the secure and even-keel sex of a married man, and now she was telling me to do it again, and again, and again?! It's a turn-on the first time, but not the fiftieth.